Batchelder Family Of Bemidji Honored At 10th Annual IDEA Competition
The IDEA Competition is in its 10th year, and last night’s ceremony proved that Northwest Minnesota is a place where ingenuity thrives.
“This year, there was probably a wider range of ideas than in the past. And something we can be proud of is the fact that I think all of the finalists will really be able to take that next step with the seed money that they’re awarded,” says Philip Knutson, coordinator for the IDEA Competition.
Every year, one trailblazer in the industry is inducted into the IDEA Hall Of Fame. This time, that honor went to a Bemidji family who has a long history in the community – they’re the Batchelder family, owners of the Bemidji Woolen Mills.
“We’ve operated in our current location on the corner of 3rd Street and Irvine Ave. in historic downtown Bemidji since 1929. We started just a couple blocks away in the Soo Line railroad right-of-way, but in 1929, opportunity presented itself and we moved over to our current location,” says Bill Batchelder, the current owner of the Bemidji Woolen Mills.
In its nearly 100 year long history, the Bemidji Woolen Mills has provided service to people from all over the world. The place is also a true family business. So far, five generations have worked in the store.
“Every single day something interesting happens. A new individual calls up, a new customer is born; continually, that continuum of the next generation of a family member running the Woolen Mills to the next generation of a customer that comes in,” says Batchelder.
While the Batchelder family was getting honored, three other businesses received the privilege of winning this year’s competition. They are (in no particular order):
- Caroline Hayden, Crookston, MN: Clothing label that sells bridal and evening attire.
- Real Good Bath And Body, Crookston, MN: Produces high-quality, natural based body products.
- Safe-D-Transfer, Bemidji, MN: Develops equipment for safe and easy patient transfer in the healthcare industry.
This year, Northwest Minnesota Small Business Development Center consultant Grant Oppegaard was also honored with the first ever Regional Impact Award.
Oppegaard says, “We help clients who are looking for $2-3 million loans or $10-15 thousand loans, and many of them will have their own new ideas and the IDEA competition really centers in on many of them that, many of the new entrepreneurs who have actually developed patentable items.”
If you’re interested in the IDEA competition, the application to submit an idea will open in September.